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Presidential Campaigns Since the 1960 Election

After failing in the 1960 election, Richard Nixon and his advisers evaluated what went wrong and realized something we as a society would come to know in the succeeding decades. Television now plays an integral role in swaying the presidential choice of our citizens in the elections. The growth of technology forced changes in campaign strategies shifting the focus to the image of the candidate. Nixon arguably came short in the 1960 election because of his inability to present a better television image than John F. Kennedy in their debates. When decided to run again in 1968 he would not make the same mistakes again.

Oh no. Let me say this. Without television, Richard Nixon would not have a chance. He would not have a prayer of being elected because the press would not let him get through to the people. But because he is so good on television he will get through despite the press. The press doesn’t matter anymore.  -Frank Shakespeare

The 1960 election marked the historic period when television was first introduced to a presidential election. Being that it was a new phenomena, it is understandable why Nixon’s camp may have been naive in anticipating the power of this new technology. It is also comprehensible that when Nixon ran again in 1968, they would have recognized their deficiencies and corrected them. A major example of this is Nixon’s television advertisements leading up to the 1968 election. Nixon savored in the fact citizens were no longer receiving their political information from a largely democratic biased press in newspapers in magazines. He seized this opportunity to establish himself in the media through the image he could present of himself on television. This opportunity would also be realized by candidates in future generations as technology only continued to grow and methods of reaching the public became wider and wider.

Since the 1960 elections political campaigns have only continued to evolve. If you mentioned Twitter, Facebook, CNN, Fox News, and the Internet to Richard Nixon in 1968 he would have no idea what you were talking about. Media in 2011 plays a pivotal role in the daily lives an Americans and presidential candidates have to reach voters on more fronts than ever. It also allows people to voice their own political views to the masses and a growing amount of people get their political information from these sources alone.

A presidential candidate has been somewhat glorified as a celebrity in this day and age. With Americans getting a constant view into the daily lives of the candidates, it is important they are presenting the right image at all times. The average voter wants a President who they feel is “down to Earth” and just a normal citizen like them. An example is the strategies Barack Obama used in utilizing all media outlets in his 2008 Presidential campaign. By the time the election started, Obama had over 5 million followers during his campaign in an age where more people are dependent on social networking websites. He also strongly took advantage of the Internet and viral videos. Our market also allowed average citizens to use these mediums to campaign for him.

The ways in which television revolutionized elections in 1968 has only grown as technology has continued to increase. Candidates must take advantage of all sources Americans are obtaining their information and present a favorable image now more than ever. Before television the only image of candidates people had was in person meetings, radio speeches, and pictures. The ability to present live footage of a candidate to the voters had a profound impact. Today the impact is only growing more.

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  1. March 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Good job. The evolution of viral, online videos in campaigns is an important point obviously. And yet it is still an extension of television. These viral or social technologies are the ones that candidates are trying to figure out in real time, much like Nixon in 1968.

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